The 20-story Peninsula Chicago sits just off—yet feels distant from—the shop and tourist–congested Michigan Avenue. An elevator ride up to the fifth floor leads guests to one of Chicago’s grandest hotel lobbies. White marble floors and gilded 20-foot ceilings evoke colonial Shanghai, a live string quartet performs out of sight, and an army of efficient concierges stands ready to answer any whim. Care to find Lake Michigan’s best smoked whitefish? Meet a craft brewer of truffle-infused beer? Get your kids a ride in a Cinderella pumpkin-themed horse-drawn carriage, or outfit them in pint-sized firefighting gear for a visit to a working fire station? The service-obsessed hotel management encourages guests to look beyond the tourist zone by arranging private tours of offbeat museums and neighborhoods. Large, light-filled rooms with French doors separating lounge and sleeping areas especially suit families with kids, as does the large indoor pool and hotel activities such Cantonese dim sum cooking lessons and weekend chocolate buffets.
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On weekends, upper Michigan Avenue, half a block east, is packed with suburbanites and tourists who, after shopping, head for neighborhood deep-dish pizza restaurants such as Giordano’s, Gino’s East, and Pizzeria Due. The hotel is a five-minute stroll from the Museum of Contemporary Art or a scenic 20-minute walk across the river to the Chicago Art Institute. Buses and L trains are conveniently at hand for guests who prefer mass transit over taxis or the complimentary hotel car service.
Need to Know
Rooms: 399 rooms; from $430. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The 1930s-styled Shanghai Terrace is considered Chicago’s best Cantonese and Shanghainese restaurant because of the quality of ingredients in dishes such as wild ginseng soup and three-course Peking Duck. The Lobby offers contemporary American cuisine, while the street-level Pierrot Gourmet serves European bistro fare. The Sunday lunch buffet, one of the most lavish in town, offers items from all three kitchens. Spa and gym details: The sunny, airy gym has floor-to-ceiling windows and a choice of 30 free classes; instructors include Anne Pringle, who created the Peyow Aqua Pilates program. The top-floor indoor lap pool has just three lanes but is 25 meters in length; there’s an adjoining outdoor sky terrace, but the pool’s floor-to-ceiling windows let in enough light for year-round sunbathing. Asian-influenced treatments at the ESPA-branded spa include a jade hot stone massage and a bamboo harmonizer, with your body serving as the instrument.
Who’s it for: Families and international travelers who seek pampering and every need anticipated. Our favorite rooms: All rooms swim in natural light, but those on the northeast corner have views of the historic Water Tower and iconic John Hancock skyscraper. The Peninsula Suite, often booked for wedding parties, has a private gym and 2,000-foot terrace. Reservation secrets: Booking directly with the hotel gets you better-than-Internet rates and pre-arrival cooperation with the concierges, who have an encyclopedic knowledge of the local food scene and can score hard-to-get restaurant reservations. Boka (at 1729 N. Halsted St.) is their current recommendation for New American cuisine.
The renovation started in the summer of 2015 and scheduled to be completed 2016 Q1 will solidify the Peninsula Chicago as one of the top hotels in the city. The electronics are easy to use and very helpful. The rooms are modern and beautiful. And of course the common areas are classic.